While its appearance on cans and bottles of San Juan beer has made the image of the otorongo ubiquitous to consumers, the reality for the living, breathing animal is quite the reverse…
The otorongo is a native Peruvian big cat that’s a member of the jaguar family. It’s also the symbol of San Juan, a popular pale lager brewed by our Peruvian subsidiary Backus. But the otorongo, like many native big cats, is under threat from loss of habitat and other man-made perils.
Today there are thought to be fewer than 6,000 of these beautiful creatures remaining in the Peruvian rainforest, with any further loss of numbers likely to put the entire native ecosystem at risk, given the otorongo’s vital place in the food chain.
Aware of the otorongo’s plight, the San Juan team at Backus decided to fight back on behalf of their iconic feline symbol by creating the ‘Where is my Otorongo?’ campaign.
The campaign launched during the hugely popular local carnival in late February; it saw the otorongo removed from San Juan bottles and replaced by pictures of common species such as dogs, cows or pigs. Only 6,000 bottles retained their familiar otorongo image, a symbolic number representing the last remaining wild population.
The aim of the campaign was to have the otorongo officially recognised as part of the region’s natural heritage. A petition to this effect gathered signatures in the city of Pucallpa, where San Juan is brewed, while demonstrations highlighted the otorongo’s plight; music festivals and other public events also helped to raise awareness.
Once the petition achieved enough signatures, the otorongo was returned to its rightful place on San Juan’s labels and packaging, with the strength of public feeling leading to a commitment by the Peruvian authorities to ensure the animal’s preservation.
As well as raising public awareness, Backus is also taking practical steps to support both the otorongo and the wider rainforest ecosystem.
Julian Coulter, Vice-president of Marketing at Backus, explains: “We are working with the local government to ensure that proper, legal measures are put in place to increase the longer-term efforts to conserve the otorongo in its natural habitat.
The hard work that’s gone into the ‘Where is my Otorongo?’ campaign was acknowledged earlier this year, when at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity; it won a Bronze Cannes Lion in the category of Media.
Julian Coulter says of the Cannes recognition: “I am incredibly proud of the team; they made a real effort to bring SABMiller’s Prosper initiatives to life in an innovative and highly creative manner.”
But with the battle far from won, Backus and San Juan plan to continue highlighting the plight of the otorongo, working to transform this endangered species into an icon of national pride.